A group of non-professional archaeologists in the village discover a forgotten palace from the Tudor era in their backyard.
Several years ago, a team of inexperienced archaeologists embarked on a journey to uncover the buried ruins of a Tudor palace in their village in Northamptonshire. They were aware of the challenges they would face.
Several individuals were raised in the rural area and grew up hearing stories about a hidden palace. They were uncertain if it truly existed or was just a legend. Thus, they set out to locate it. Chris Close, the leader of the Collyweston Historical and Preservation Society (Chaps), shared that their group stumbled upon the Palace of Collyweston in someone’s backyard earlier this year.
“We were a group of inexperienced individuals without funds, knowledge, plans, or artist renderings to guide us, and the palace was completely gone. It was our naivety and sheer determination that brought us to this point.”
Numerous efforts were made during the 1980s and 90s to locate Collyweston Palace, the residence of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. However, without the aid of modern technology, none were successful.
In the 15th century, the palace gained notoriety for being the site of several significant events. One such event was the pre-wedding festivities of Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland in 1503. Additionally, records show that Henry VIII held court at the palace on October 16 and 17, 1541.
During the mid-17th century, the palace had deteriorated and there was little evidence of its existence until the Chaps dig uncovered its walls in March.
“Throughout this project, we have discovered several significant aspects,” stated Close. “Through extensive research and uncovering various records, we have learned that Collyweston played a crucial role in hosting privy councils, which holds great significance on a national level.”
Scholars from the University of York collaborated with the group to confirm their discoveries and determine the location of the palace using unearthed stone pieces. They will continue to work with Chaps on additional excavations to fully uncover the structure and preserve it for future generations.
In March 2018, the Chaps team, made up of over 80 individuals ranging from teenagers to those in their 70s and 80s, initially laid out their strategy to locate the palace. They utilized “local legends and rumors” to assist in narrowing down their search area.
Geophysical surveys were conducted and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) was utilized to assist in identifying the placement of the palace walls. Permission was obtained from homeowners to excavate in gardens.
Close stated, “We managed to complete the project with very limited funds. We essentially accomplished a project that would have cost between £80,000 and £90,000 for only £13,000. As a small society, I believe it is a great accomplishment to have achieved this without any financial resources, specialized knowledge, or detailed plans. The entire society should take pride in this achievement.”